by Mark Schreiber, Salary.sg guest contributor
Had Anton Casey castigated Bangladeshi construction workers or Filipina maids he would be just another wealthy expat banker revving his Porsche on Orchard Road, taking his ex-Miss Singapore wife shopping at Cartier, teaching his young progeny how to hit a boast on the squash court.
But instead he is famous – infamous – literally overnight, the latest cultural villain not only in Singapore, but in Britain and the United States as well, having been written up in The Guardian and dressed down on CNBC. He’s even received death threats. And for what? For smuggling banned substances? For driving drunk and causing a fatal crash? No, for calling us – us! – poor.
We who have uncallused hands, who went to university, who think nothing of flying to Sydney or Paris for vacation. He called us poor. Just because we take the train.
And he’s British. Had he been PRC we might have been able to wave it off. Just another rude millionaire from the Mainland. But the British class system still casts a shadow over us. We like to think we’re a meritocracy, that wealth is a reflection of hard work, moderation and prudence. But it only takes one idiot with a broken Porsche to erase seven decades of post-Colonialism.
What’s wrong with taking the train?
It’s human nature to compare ourselves with those above us on the social ladder rather than with those below. Oh no, we’re not that well off, we’re not successful. We send our kids to public schools and fly economy. The Tan’s on the fortieth floor, now they’re rich. But lo and behold an outsider tells us we’re poor and we’re ready to call the firing squad.
But may we suggest, amid all the opprobrium directed at Mr. Casey, that we are, unfortunately, more like him than either he or we think? For who among us has not wondered how those Bangaledeshi workers can labor in the heat, or live in shacks, or let their kids run barefoot, or walk to work instead of taking the train?
Maybe his social crime was simply that he voiced this sentiment aloud, and about us.